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My wish, for each of us, is to be okay. To allow life’s
bountiful joy to move us. That beautiful spring afternoon,
a baby’s smile, patting your friend, spouse or child on
the back and telling them how proud they make you, these
things are a good start. Be creative on the road to being
Okayed. Use your imagination to raise your spirits. Enjoy
the simple things. That’s the philosophy I’ve adapted and
now I’m doing okay. Believe me, it wasn’t always so. There
were some rough and tumble times, but I made it through.
Okay, for me, means that I am usually happy, have some sort
of wits about me, and can pay my bills on time. Now I do
wish that there was more in reserve (both money & wit),
but I figure that’s something that may come in time, if God
so wishes. We shall see.
Anyway, back to being Okay. I know it’s sometimes seems
impossible. The daily struggles, the headlines one must
digest, and dealing with a rude clerk at the local grocery
store after a really bad day. I am still, at times, okay-
challenged. But, here’s the good news. I am able to take
the trash out on Sunday night, I can figure out my remote
control, and as long I can remember where I put my glasses,
I’m still able to settle in and read the newspaper or a
Being okay has its advantages. I don’t have an exotic
disease. I’m not in prison. I have a wonderful family. I am
part of a great community and live in the best country in
the world. My Mom loves me and my wife still thinks I’m sexy.
I figure if I can be okay, anybody can, so if you’re up to
the challenge, give it a whirl. I wish you unequivocal
success and the pure joy of simply being, okay.
Jack Redden, fifty-three years old, husband, father and
grandfather, popped his knuckles and stretched his six-foot
two-inch frame. He leaned back in his chair. For the last two
years, he’d been writing a “family” column for his local newspaper,
The New Times, a neighborhood rag with a circulation of about 4,500,
and these were his latest musings.
He e-mailed the finished column to his editor, and
reached for the can of A&W Root beer sitting on his desk.
He took a long, languid draw from the familiar brown and
white can, letting the cool nectar run down his dry gullet,
and when he finished, followed with a deep, rumbling burp
that would have made John 'Bluto' Blutarsky proud!
Unfortunately, things weren’t exactly okay for Jack.
It seems the old ticker wasn’t working, as it should. He’d
been having some pains and shortness of breath. A trip to
his Doctor ensued, and following a battery of tests, he
was placed on a beta blocker and some medications that
would help lower his cholesterol. The worst part of the
prognosis was being told to watch what he ate and exercise
It had caused a rift between he and his wife, Lana. He
knew she worried about him, and was upset about him taking
things so lightly. It had escalated into a full-blown
argument, and she trotted off to her Mom’s for the weekend,
to vent some steam. Jack understood her concern, but
thought that as usual, she was overreacting. He felt fine.
He smiled. He did love that woman. She had called
earlier, and said she’d be home this afternoon. He would
try to appease her. He’d lose a few pounds and maybe start
going to the gym with her a couple times a week. Might even
attempt some of that tofu stuff she was always trying to
push his way.
It’s a sad day when a man feels guilty about eating a
piece of meat under his own roof, he thought.
Jack closed his eyes and let his mind wander. He
drifted back to his childhood days, back to the summer of
his youth, in Hartford City, Indiana. It had been a
wonderful time. He recollected those hazy August mornings.
Doves singing gentle melodies, honeybees buzzing,
wildflowers brimming, colors cascading throughout the
countryside. Sweet corn gently waving in the breeze,
tassels reaching delicately towards the warm sun. Mornings
that offered serenity to even the most troubled souls.
The baseball games, riding bikes with friends, camping
under the stars, eating watermelon and seeing how far you
could spit the seeds, fishing down at the river, and going
to Water’s grocery store to load up on all the candy that a
nickel could buy!
Summers passed, adolescence crept in, and restlessness
prevailed. He recalled how naïve he’d been. He’d grown
embarrassed by those small town ways, and wished only to
strike out for more exciting places, looking to fulfill his
destiny and rid himself of his “horrible” roots. Jack
remembered feeling that great adventures beckoned beyond
the edge of town, and at nineteen, joined the Navy.
There he met people from all walks of life. City dwellers
from New York, Boston, LA and small town constituents, from
places like Nut bush, Mountain Grove and Bird City. Jack
thought about those people and the common bond they all
shared. Pride in their roots. Over time, it caused him
to rethink his feelings, and rekindled the fire, reminding
him how fortunate he was to be a Hoosier.
Jack spent many years serving his country, working as a
Naval Journalist. He met and married Lana Lewis, and they
had traveled the globe several times over.
He reminisced how he’d marveled at the dramatic terraced
rice patties of Okinawa, Japan, was awed by the stunning
beauty of Maui’s cascading waterfalls; stood with his feet
planted in the supple sands of Diego Garcia, allowing
luxuriant breezes to caress his face after their delicate
dance across the whitecaps of the Indian Ocean; sat
mesmerized as he watched rain plummeting sideways in
majestic Scotland; incredulously walked spell-bound through
the bustling streets of Singapore; journeyed awestruck
through exotic Malaysia, and witnessed many sweltering
sunrises through lofty banana palms in the enchanted
Hell, he’d even managed the time to fight in Vietnam & The
Gulf War in-between, but his Hoosier bond remained strong.
When his military days ended, he took this job. Having
gone full circle, he was again back in Hartford, and
refocused on the wonders of Midwest magic.
Jack stirred from his daydream, and began to think
about the article he’d just written and about Lana and all
their wonderful years together. He was not okay. He had
been selfish and had not taken her feelings into
consideration. They had been married thirty-three years!
What right did he have to not take care of himself, and
jeopardize their remaining life together?
Jack felt an overwhelming urge to write a note to her,
letting her know just how much she really meant to him.
He began to jot down some thoughts of what he would
like to say. This was how he liked to do things. It always
began with his notepad, and then he’d transfer everything
to his computer. It was the comfort of the physical
writing, holding the pen and watching the words form, which
still excited him.
He thought briefly about picking up the phone and
calling her, spilling his guts to her about what he’d been
thinking and how damn sorry he was, how he would make
everything right, but then he figured he would just finish
the note and could tell her everything else when she got
Maybe they would even go to that Vegetarian Restaurant
that she loved so, and feast on Tofu and wild rice tonight.
Who knows, with some proper seasoning, he might even learn
to like it!
Sadly, Jack died that afternoon. He never had the chance to
let the velvety texture of tofu trace his lips.
Lana returned home and found her beloved. He was in
front of his desk, slumped in that old worn leather chair
that he’d loved so dearly, notepad opened and still holding
a pen. Frantically, she called their friend, a doctor, who
in turn called an ambulance and said he’d be right over.
When he got there, he found Lana sitting on the floor,
beside Jack’s chair, crying softly and gently stroking his
hand. She was clutching the notepad that held Jack’s final
My sweet Lana,
I want to thank you, my wonderful wife of thirty-three
years. Thanks for saying yes when I asked for your hand in
marriage. You made me the happiest man on the face of this
planet. Thanks for making me a believer, for helping me to
understand just how beautiful life can be.
You’re my dedicated companion, beloved soul mate,
unequivocal hero, life counselor and best friend. Thanks
for your compassion, your love, dedication, desire and
creativity. Thanks for holding my hand when we walk
and for not criticizing my driving too much.
Thanks for the music, magic and splendor. Thanks for the
back rubs and your magnificent manicotti. Thanks for your
resolve, resolution and sharing all those beloved sunrises
Thanks for trying to understand football, baseball, hockey,
basketball and all other sports that I obsess about.
You give every day new meaning and purpose. You make
the colors more vivid, the sunshine brighter and the birds
sing sweeter. For being you, let me say once more, thanks.